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QCGN Urges All Participants in Debate over Bill 96 to Act with Civility and Respect

When it adopted the Charter of the French Language more than 40 years ago, the Quebec National Assembly embraced an enduring and essential commitment: to pursue the Charter’s objectives “in a spirit of fairness and open-mindedness, respectful of the institutions of the English-speaking community of Quebec, and respectful of the ethnic minorities, whose valuable contribution to the development of Quebec it readily acknowledges.”

Bill 96 fails to live up to this commitment. This proposed legislation represents a serious danger to the linguistic peace that Quebecers have worked so hard to achieve over the last half-century.

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BILL 96 AND THE DEAF: THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF LEGISLATION

Quebec recently unveiled plans to make substantial changes to the Charter of the French Language through Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec. The purpose of Bill 96 is “to affirm that the only official language of Quebec is French.” It also affirms that French is the common language of the Quebec nation. Bill 96 pre-emptively invokes Section 33 (the notwithstanding clause) of the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which would shield the Charter of the French Language from judicial review.  In a nutshell, Quebecers will lose their fundamental freedoms, legal, and equality rights in the application of the Charter of the French Language.

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Polls reveal divisions over language rights

Non-francophones hold widely diverging views from French-speaking Quebecers on Bill 96, which aims to reinforce the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101).

A majority of anglophones and allophones also believe the debate over the proposed legislation will strain relations between the majority and minority communities.

“There is a reason for optimism here in that common cause could be built around opposition to the use of the notwithstanding clause,” says Marlene Jennings, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network. “Quebecers take enormous pride in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the inclusive, open and tolerant society we have built together. When what the Quebec government is proposing becomes more widely understood, my belief is that opposition to the use of the notwithstanding clause will increase.”

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Proposed Bill 101 Overhaul Disregards Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms

The Quebec Community Groups Network deeply regrets that proposed changes to the Charter of the French Language override fundamental human rights and will erode the vitality of our English-speaking minority community.

“The proposed legislative changes are more far-reaching than we could have ever imagined,” QCGN President Marlene Jennings said following a quick review of Bill 96: An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec.

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FEDERALLY REGULATED BUSINESSES AND THE NEW OFFICIAL LANGUAGES LANDSCAPE

In Quebec, language rights are provided to most workers under the Charter of the French Language. This differs for people who are employed by a federal institution, a Canadian Crown Corporation, or Air Canada. Their language rights are defined under the Official Languages Act (OLA).

However, the language rights of about 135,000 employees at an estimated 1,760 federally regulated private businesses in Quebec are not currently subject either the OLA or the Quebec Charter. This represents about 4.4 per cent of the province’s workforce.

So there is a ‘mischief’ in the law.

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